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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Rep. Linda Sanchez Wishes the White House Was Not Pushing Ahead on Free Trade Agreements

The Free Trade Agreements are still making their way on the Hill but not everyone is happy. At what cost will these agreements have on the U.S. economy? That question right now is being debated in the halls of Congress. I caught up with Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), a member of the President's Export Council, on the pending agreements.

LL: Why don't you think free trade is a fair trade for the American Worker?

LS: Trade can benefit our economy and the economies of our trading partners. However, American families can’t afford to have their jobs shipped overseas to countries, where wages are kept oppressively low.

The U.S. economy is shedding manufacturing jobs at an incredible rate, having lost about 5.4 million manufacturing jobs just since 2001.

About 2.4 million of those lost jobs are due to trade with China, and another nearly 700,000 have been lost because of NAFTA.

LL: What do you say to the Chamber of Commerce who supports these Free Trade Agreements?

LS: I would say that we can all agree our goal now is to create jobs in this country.  These NAFTA-style Free Trade agreements encourage shipping our jobs off-shore. America’s smaller manufacturers and their employees will be hit the hardest by these Free Trade agreements. U.S.

economic policy has to go back to what worked in the past—focusing on putting paychecks in worker’s pockets.

LL: What would you like to see to help American manufacturers?

LS: I would like to see our economic policy focus its benefits on small and medium-sized American manufacturing.  I’m a member of President Obama’s Export Council. Our goal is to double American exports in five years.  To do that, we are focusing our efforts on small and medium-sized businesses.  We must give those businesses the tools they need to navigate the customs, currency, language, and other challenges so that they can expand into overseas markets.  We all want businesses here to export more American goods, not American jobs.

LL: The President has advocated these trade agreements. If you could speak to the President, what would you say to him?

LS: I wish the White House wasn’t pushing ahead. These are just bad deals for American workers. I know the White House is eager to get these agreements done, but the agreements need to be done right.

Because Members of Congress have many serious concerns with these FTAs, this Administration should work with Congress to address those concerns.

LL: How much with North Korea benefit from the South Korean trade agreement? (stemming off the fact a lot of North Korean workers work in South Korea)

LS: More alarming is how much China will benefit from the South Korean free trade agreement.  With a miniscule 35% content requirement for Korean goods, this agreement will ship jobs to China as well.  The United States has an enormous trade deficit with the rest of the world—we import far more than we export—and a whopping 60% of our trade deficit is with China. This trade agreement will only make this deficit worse.

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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."